2016 Minnesota's Best Lawyers
The Best Lawyers in America (bestlawyers.com) is an annual referral guide that has stood the test of time. Since 1983, it has proven to be a leading benchmark of the very best legal counsel in the U.S. More than 2,000 law firms and over half of the Fortune 1,000 companies utilize this guide.
What makes this directory so unique is that it’s a respected and unbiased peer-review publication based on 6.7 million exhaustive evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers around the country. Lawyers are not required, nor are they allowed, to pay a fee in order to be included. They are nominated and voted in by their peers. Because of this unique referral process, being selected to the Best Lawyers list is regarded within the legal profession as a source of honor and pride, a testament to exemplary work.
Minnesota Monthly has teamed up with Best Lawyers to provide a consistent and reliable resource for readers. In the following pages, we highlight the best lawyers listed in Minnesota, an exceptional group of attorneys who go above and beyond for their clients.
2016 Lommen Abdo Law Firm “Best Lawyers in America”
Back row, left to right: Robert P. Abdo, Roger V. Stageberg, and Kenneth J. Abdo. Front row: Phillip A. Cole and Kay Nord Hunt. Photo by TJ Turner
Lommen Abdo Law Firm
Concentration: Appeals, Corporate, Legal Malpractice Defense, Entertainment Law
Good lawyers are persistent, tenacious, and prepared. They minimize the risk of losing a case through carefully analyzing the matter from all angles, providing realistic client expectations from the get-go, and drawing on decades of legal expertise and experience. At Lommen Abdo, a team approach allows partners, associates, and paralegals to work together to effectively and efficiently help clients succeed. The firm handles diverse civil matters, everything from complex business issues to medical malpractice and vaccine injuries; entity creation and operations (corporate attorneys); contracts, licensing, intellectual property, and legal entertainment services (entertainment attorneys); professional liability and commercial litigation (litigation attorneys); and appellate advocacy across the civil litigation spectrum, securing over a dozen victories on appeal in 2015 alone. Because opponents know Lommen Abdo attorneys will take matters to trial—even all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court—the firm has a reputation for obtaining significant settlements, when appropriate. In addition, attorneys at Lommen Abdo work with craft breweries, handle real estate matters (transactional and litigation), and work in family law, estate planning, probate, and more.
Advice on hiring a lawyer: Hiring a “yes person” who agrees with every statement you make will most likely not be money well spent. Your lawyer should be someone who will honestly tell you the good and bad points of your legal matter. You want someone who communicates well with you and translates legalese into plain language so that you understand the process and options, arming you with the knowledge you need to make wise choices.
Back row, left to right: Paralegals Malorie A. Scharpe and Robert A. Marshall. Front row: “Best Lawyers” Lymari J. Santana and Laurie Mack-Wagner. Photo by TJ Turner
Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C.
Concentration: Family law and related causes of action
Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C.
2100 Fifth Street Towers
100 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C. is honored to have its two founding shareholders, Lymari J. Santana and Laurie Mack-Wagner, selected as 2016 “Best Lawyers” by their peers. Lymari and Laurie co-founded Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C. in 2004, and the law firm is focused on representing clients in all aspects of family law and related causes of action. Over 40 years of combined experience have provided Lymari and Laurie with a firm grasp of the intricacies of family law litigation and settlement, meeting the needs of their clients and working towards the best interests of any children involved. They have extensive experience in high asset divorces, including cases with complex business valuation issues/high worth asset division (litigating massive family law cases with estates averaging several million dollars). They work hard to advocate for their clients in divorce (dissolution), alimony (spousal maintenance), child support, self-employment income cases, and complicated custody and parenting time cases. The firm focuses on offering clients strength, compassion, and planning when facing family law litigation that often occurs at a time of personal crisis. Both women have taught Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses, authored family law desk book chapters, lectured on family law topics, are listed as “Minnesota Super Lawyers,” and were selected as “Top 50 Women Minnesota Super Lawyers,” in addition to their “Best Lawyers in America” designation in Minnesota.
Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C. also provides mediation services.
Top row, left to right: “Best Lawyers” Elizabeth Thompson and Sam Myers. Bottom row: John Medeiros and Jennifer Bouta Mojica, immigration attorneys at Myers Thompson, P.A.
Howard S. (Sam) Myers, III & Elizabeth A. Thompson
Concentration: Immigration and nationality law
Myers Thompson, P.A.
123 N. Third Street, Suite 706
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Foreign workers are an asset to your business, but you need to know how to hire and retain them legally. The laws are complex and ever-changing. Sam Myers and Elizabeth Thompson of Myers Thompson, P.A., recognized as “Best Lawyers” are the longest-lasting partnership of practicing immigration lawyers in the Upper Midwest, practicing together since 1985. Together with firm partners, John Medeiros and Jennifer Bouta Mojica—along with a case manager team of eight— they comprise one of the most seasoned corporate immigration law boutiques in the Midwest.
Sam and Elizabeth are so passionate about immigration law that they helped shape the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, regularly conduct seminars for their clients, and have traveled to Washington, D.C. as advocates on behalf of their clients’ interests.
Note-worthy accomplishments: Sam is past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and was honored as a 2014 Minnesota “Lawyer of the Year” in the field of immigration law. He serves as board chair of Minnesota’s Advocates for Human Rights and is an adjunct faculty member at the U of M Law School. Elizabeth, also a long-standing member of AILA, participated in the creation of the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (precursor to the NAFTA) and manages all aspects of immigration for corporate clients in mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. John is the Chair of the LGBT Committee of the Minnesota-Dakotas chapter of AILA, and Jennifer serves in the capacity of mentor to other AILA immigration practitioners nationally. All four attorneys address complex immigration issues at client sites, for professional associations, and at local and regional immigration and employment law conferences.
Jeffrey S. Sheridan
Concentration: DWI and Criminal Defense
Jeffrey S. Sheridan of Sheridan & Dulas, P.A., one of the most recognized and respected criminal defense lawyers in Minnesota, has a long list of successes in Minnesota’s courts. His achievements include an impressive list of landmark Minnesota Supreme Court decisions resulting in the Court striking down major portions of DWI laws as unconstitutional. Jeff’s innovative arguments and tenacious nature have proven successful in trial courts, courts of appeal, and before the Supreme Court throughout his 29-year career. In addition to being named a “Best Lawyer in America” every year since 2007 and named the 2013 “Lawyer of the Year” in DWI defense, he’s also been repeatedly recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers and been named an “Attorney of the Year” three times by Minnesota Lawyer.
Personal philosophy: Jeff believes that a lawyer should not be someone in a suit who just stands next to you while you plead guilty. A good lawyer fights to protect your rights and fights to win every time. He comments, “I don’t judge you. I don’t lecture you. I defend you. Period.”
Legal advice: “If you’ve been stopped for DWI and had your license revoked, see a lawyer immediately. The worst thing you can do is wait around for your first court appearance. Important rights that may determine the ultimate outcome of your case will disappear soon after your arrest.”
Laura K. Fretland
Concentration: Family Law
Most divorces and custody disputes are settled out of court, yet there is no substitute for the insight and leverage an experienced family law attorney brings to each case. For more than 26 years, Laura Fretland has been helping people face divorce and other personal, challenging, and complex family law disputes. She provides careful guidance and quality legal representation customized to the unique needs of her clients, whether that means litigation, negotiated settlement, collaborative law, or mediation. Her goal is fair and efficient resolutions, but she’s a fierce and aggressive litigator when necessary, working hard to safeguard the rights of her clients.
A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, she is well-versed in Minnesota law and has lectured and published materials for lawyers on elder law, divorce, and antenuptial agreements.
Jane Van Valkenburg
Concentration: Family Law
As a family law attorney with over 26 years of experience, Jane Van Valkenburg will work with you to receive top legal representation, matching the needs of you and your client. “I am experienced working through collaboration, mediation, negotiation, and litigation,” she says. “In the process that is right for you, my role is to guide you with legal experience and expertise. My goal is to give to you the tools and support necessary in the legal process and for you to move to the next stage of your life.”
In addition to being named a “Best Lawyer,” she has been named a “Super Lawyer” for the past 14 years, lectures and publishes materials for lawyers on custody, support, and elder law dissolutions, and has been appointed as a special magistrate in Hennepin County Family Courts.
Thomas R. Wilhelmy
Concentration: Litigation and controversy tax
Thomas R. Wilhelmy of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., is rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a MSBA certified specialist in real property law who practices property tax law. Named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2015 and again in 2016, Thomas has received numerous honors, awards, and accolades: “Minnesota’s Top Rated Lawyer” by American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell; “Super Lawyer” by Minnesota Super Lawyers Magazine; “Corporate Tax Lawyer of the Year” for the USA in 2013, 2014 and 2015 by Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards; (with Fredrikson & Byron) named “Tax Law Firm of the Year” for the USA by Finance Monthly for 2014 and 2015; 2015 Legal Award for “Excellence in Tax Litigation – Minnesota” from the International Association of Lawyers and Swissport; and a “Leading Lawyer Global 250 for 2014” by Lawyer Monthly.
William D. Harper & Paul Peterson
Concentration: Personal Injury Law
At the law office of Harper & Peterson, PLLC, Bill Harper and Paul Peterson, both named as 2015 “Best Lawyers,” work hard to protect the rights of personal injury victims and hold wrongdoers accountable. They are highly selective in the cases they handle in order to dedicate their energy and efforts into getting results. Bill and Paul have extensive courtroom experience and the two are board-certified as Civil Trial Specialists by the Minnesota State Bar Association and the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA). They have tried hundreds of cases between them. Their firm has successfully obtained millions of dollars in recoveries for their clients. They will settle their clients’ cases for full and fair compensation, or take the claims to trial. Most cases come as referrals from former clients or other attorneys, a testament to their excellent reputation within the field.
Left to right: Thomas W. Tuft, John M. Jerabek, Susan M. Lach, and Dan C. O’Connell
Tuft, Lach, Jerabek & O’Connell, PLLC
Concentration: Family Law
Divorce, child custody/support, visitation, and property division cases require the knowledge and negotiation skills of accomplished attorneys. Each of the partners at Tuft, Lach, Jerabek & O’Connell, PLLC—Thomas W. Tuft, Susan M. Lach, John M. Jerabek, and Dan C. O’Connell—are Fellows in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) and were selected by their peers as “Best Lawyers in America” in Family Law. Tom, Susan, and Dan served as past presidents of the Minnesota Chapter of the AAML, and Dan was named a Minneapolis-area 2015 “Lawyer of the Year” for Family Law and 2016 “Lawyer of the Year” for Family Law Mediation by Best Lawyers in America. These attorneys are dedicated to helping clients face family-related legal matters with honest advice and experienced legal representation.
Methodology for Best Lawyers®
Woodward/White Inc. has used its best efforts in assembling material for this list but does not warrant that the information contained herein is complete or accurate, and does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions herein whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. All listed attorneys have been verified as being members in good standing with their respective state bar associations as of July 1, 2015, where that information is publicly available. Consumers should contact their state bar for verification and additional information prior to securing legal services of any attorney.
Copyright 2015 by Woodward/White Inc., Aiken, S.C. All rights reserved. This list, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission. No commercial use of this list may be made without permission of Woodward/White, Inc. No fees may be charged, directly or indirectly, for the use of this list without permission. “The Best Lawyers in America®” and “Best Lawyers” are registered trademarks of Woodward/White, Inc. The Best Lawyers in America® is published by Woodward/White, Inc., Aiken, South Carolina and can be ordered directly from the publisher. For information call 803-648-0300; write 237 Park Ave., SW, Suite 101, Aiken, SC 29801; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit bestlawyers.com. Online subscriptions to Best Lawyers® is available at bestlawyers.com.
This list is excerpted from 2016 edition of The Best Lawyers in America® - the pre-eminent referral guide to the legal profession in the U.S. Published since 1983, Best Lawyers lists attorneys in 140 specialties, representing all 50 states, who have been chosen through an exhaustive survey in which thousands of the nation’s top lawyers confidentially evaluate their peers. The 2016 edition of Best Lawyers is based on more than 6.7 million evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers.
The method used to compile Best Lawyers remains unchanged since the first edition was compiled more than 30 years ago. Lawyers are chosen for inclusion based solely on the vote of their peers. Listings cannot be bought, and no purchase is required to be included. In this regard, Best Lawyers remains the gold standard of reliability and integrity in lawyer ratings.
The nomination pool for the 2016 edition consisted of all lawyers whose names appeared in the previous edition of Best Lawyers, lawyers who were nominated since the previous survey, and new nominees solicited from listed attorneys. In general, lawyers were asked to vote only on nominees in their own specialty in their own jurisdiction. Lawyers in closely related specialties were asked to vote across specialties, as were lawyers in smaller jurisdictions. Where specialties are national or international in nature, lawyers were asked to vote nationally as well as locally. Voting lawyers were also given an opportunity to offer more detailed comments on nominees. Each year, half of the voting pool receives fax or email ballots; the other half is polled by phone.
Voting lawyers were provided this general guideline for determining if a nominee should be listed among “the best:” “If you had a close friend or relative who needed a real estate lawyer (for example), and you could not handle the case yourself, to whom would you refer them?” All votes and comments were solicited with a guarantee of confidentiality—a critical factor in the viability and validity of Best Lawyers’ surveys. To ensure the rigor of the selection process, lawyers were urged to use only their highest standards when voting, and to evaluate each nominee based only on his or her individual merits. The additional comments were used to make more accurate comparisons between voting patterns and weight votes accordingly. Best Lawyers uses various methodological tools to identify and correct for anomalies in both the nomination and voting process.
Ultimately, of course, a lawyer’s inclusion is based on the subjective judgments of his or her fellow attorneys. While it’s true that the lists may at times disproportionately reward visibility or popularity, the breadth of the survey, the candor of the respondents, and the sophistication of the polling methodology largely correct for any biases.
For these reasons, Best Lawyers lists continue to represent the most reliable, accurate, and useful guide to the Best Lawyers in the United States. Best Lawyers lists are available at bestlawyers.com.